|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Teng Kiat
He saw his side dig deep in the second half against the Courts Young Lions to emerge triumphant, and Brunei DPMM coach Vjeran Simunic was in no doubt that they were worthy victors.
“Victory is very sweet!” he declared to the media after the game. “For me, this was our first win of the season and we didn’t deserve to draw; we deserved to win tonight.
“Now we are in a better mood... [And] I am happier [ahead of the] big game against Albirex [Niigata (S) on Monday].”
When asked about Pg Sallehuddin’s sending off for a second bookable offence, Simunic insisted that he need to watch the replays before he could make a clearer judgement.
“I am very respectful of the Young Lions and I am always proud when we beat them, especially without one player [this time],” he said.
“I wanted to change [substitute] him [Sallehuddin, before the foul] but he went forward and pushed [an opposing player], so that was bad luck.”
Simunic also believes that his team has started to earn the respect of other S.League sides after their strong showing last season, where they finished runners-up.
“I am very happy when teams respect us; we are motivation [for them to win], and this means we have to work hard to get results,” Simunic claimed.
“Brunei is a small country [and it is] not easy to find players, and I am very proud of my players. We depend on teamwork [a lot] and we are not scared of any team in the region.”
The Brunei national team, also coached by Simunic, comprises mainly DPMM players and will play three AFC Challenge Cup games from March 22 to 26, but the Croatian believes they can cope with those matches and their two other league games this month.
“It will be very difficult, but I trust all my players,” he proclaimed.
His opposite number, Aide Iskandar, thought the game was “a tale of two halves”.
“I am definitely disappointed,” he said. “For the first half performance, I was not happy with the goals conceded [but the] second half was much better.
“We had our chances to score; Sherif [El-Masri] scored a beautiful goal but unfortunately Shamil [Sharif] couldn't convert the [rebound from the] spill by DPMM goalkeeper Wardun [Yussof], and we also had one goal ruled offside that I thought was legitimate.”
The former Singapore captain “expects” his young charges to make mistakes, but believes they will grow “stronger” from such experiences.
“Playing DPMM is always going to be a difficult game; they are never easy to play because of the aggression [they display], but I think these type of games benefit the boys and makes them strong,” Aide explained.
“I told them [before the game] that they must have the belief to win every game they play, and I thought in the second half they showed character.
“I hope these positive things can carry over to the next game against Balestier [Khalsa].”
Aide also singled out Tajeli Salamat and Al-Qaasimy Rahman for “superb” performances, and is hopeful that his side’s attacking options will be boosted by the potential returns of Fazli Ayob, Sahil Suhaimi, Stanely Ng and Fareez Farhan.
The 37-year-old went on to add that El-Masri would be a key part of his plans this season, noting that the Canadian winger’s “valuable” experience would benefit his younger teammates.
“Having played in the S.League for almost four years, he will definitely help a lot of the young players like Iggy [Ignatius Ang], Nicholas Cher and [Nur] Ridho [in terms of] how they link up and make the moves [during attack] and their finishing,” Aide pointed out.
“I think these are valuable attributes and hopefully they can step up [as the season progresses].”